Lee Davy sits down with the European Poker Tour & World Poker Tour champion, Roberto Romanello, to talk about his absence from the game, his new deal with Matchbook, and getting owned in The Colossus.
Then he vanished.
We didn’t see the Welsh Wizard in a single event throughout the whole of 2015. So when I saw him go deep in Event #2: $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE) – where he eventually finished in 56th – I felt good. My reputation had been restored.
But where had he been?
I caught up with him in the Rio kitchen, as he prepared for his second bite at The Colossus, and this is what he had to say.
Where have you been boyo?
“I haven’t played a single hand of poker throughout 2015 – not one. The last hand I played online was December 2014. Since then I haven’t even ventured into my local game.”
“There were a number of factors behind my decision. It was well thought out, and not something I did on a whim. My brothers and I were opening up our eighth Roma fish and chip restaurant. This one was in Tenby, in South Wales. It takes a lot of hard work to open a shop, and it’s difficult to give 100% when you are playing poker.
“I have been playing non-stop for the past 5-6 years. I love it, it’s an amazing job, traveling around the world, and playing this wonderful game, but it’s all consuming. It has to be. That’s how you become a great player.
“I also wanted to test myself. I see a lot of people who are addicted to poker. I wanted to know if was. The plan was to abstain until the World Series, and I did it. I’m proud of that. I love the game, but it’s great to know I am not reliant on it.”
What’s your schedule like?
“I’m fortunate that I got a great sponsorship deal with Matchbook. I’ve worked with them before, and have always respected them. I was going to play a lot of events, but this takes the pressure off. To have the freedom to play the whole series, is something I don’t take lightly. I am forever grateful for Matchbook, and anyone else that has staked me in the past.”
I am often told that you can’t be away from the online game for too long because it advances so quickly, is that the same with the live game, and how did you feel being away for so long?
“I have never played the online game seriously, so I can’t comment on the online aspect of the game. When I play live my main focus is adapting to the table I am sitting at. I love playing live poker. I am a people person. I love meeting people. The strongest part of my game is my reading ability at the table. I need to see the player in the flesh. That’s my game, and it’s what I love about it. It’s how I have excelled.
“I got back into the rhythm fairly quickly. I made Day 2 of the $5k, and finished just outside the money. I ran queens into Kevin MacPhee’s kings, for a big pot, but that’s poker. I feel fresh, and there is a long way to go. Let’s see if I can conjure up something special by the end of the series.”
Back to the Roma business. Are you going to expand beyond the Welsh borders?
“The plan is to open as many shops as we need to, to become financially secure in the future. It’s an investment. Let’s work hard now while we are young, and reap the rewards in 5-10 years time. We are dedicated to our fish and chips. We serve nothing but the best.”
Do you feel guilty leaving them behind?
“As you know we are a very close family. When I am out here I am representing my family. They all have an equal share in anything I win. It all goes back into the business. This keeps me levelheaded. It gives me a sense of responsibility that I thrive upon. They are excited when I am out here. They have a nice sweat.”
Who are you staying with?
“I’m staying with Chris Sly and Sam Trickett. JP Kelly is also going to join us, and one or two other people. It’s a great environment and one I really enjoyed last year. As you know, I used to get homesick playing throughout the entire series, but having a house brings a sense of normality about it. That works well for me, and my game.”
I believe you are working on a new business venture. Can you tell me more about that?
“I am working on something really exciting at the moment. It’s an online business venture that I thought of a while ago. Playing poker kept me from realizing that dream, and it was another reason why I took a break from the game. I have given my heart and soul into this project, and when I have more to tell you about it, you will be the first to know.”
You are waiting to enter The Colossus. How many bullets have you fired?
“It’s a great tournament. Someone told me earlier that they are expecting over 20,000 players. I am waiting to enter for the second time. My first exit was funny. I open to 800, off a 6k stack, and get one caller. I am holding [Kd] [Jd]. The flop falls 855r, I bet 1,300, and he calls. The turn is a queen. I’m thinking his range consists of a lot of small pairs, and the queen is a good card for me. I decide to put him to the test and move all-in. He tank calls. I’m thinking: “Nice call.” Then he turned over A7o.
“I haven’t felt like that for a long time. He was a funny looking guy, obviously a recreational player, and here he was calling off his entire stack with ace high. I didn’t know what the hell had happened. I have been coming here for years, and I have to say, it was the first time I have taken that walk of shame and shook my head non-stop from the top to the bottom of the corridor, and I have played in some big events. I think I was owned. It was hilarious.”
Romanello did re-enter the Colossus, but didn’t make it through to Day 2.